Kealia Coastal Boardwalk – Hike

Spot Rare Hawaiian Birds on the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk By Maalaea Bay
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Short and remarkably easy to navigate, the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk encourages you to skip the crowds and enjoy expansive views of the marsh and coast. This destination is most notable for its exceptional birdwatching opportunities, as several rare species gather here. Bring a pair of binoculars and treat yourself to a peaceful stroll like no other.

- The Local Expert Team

Maui hikes are always gorgeous, but some are simply too strenuous for casual vacationers. If you want to move your legs but also crave relaxation, you’re better off skipping the island’s hardcore hikes and instead hitting up the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk. There, you’ll take in the island’s most remarkable scenery without feeling exhausted. Short and sweet, this walk gives you all the nature-viewing opportunities of a long trek, but none of the sore muscles.

Ideally situated near Maalaea Bay and within the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, this hidden gem is one of the lesser-traversed hikes in the area, despite providing easy access to the beach and a gorgeous view. Visitors of all ages and activity levels enjoy exploring the boardwalk. While families and retirees dominate, couples can often be seen meandering hand-in-hand at sunset.

Fences on both sides make this an ideal destination for families with young children. It’s flat and paved, so bird lovers with mobility impairments should be relieved to find a local option with virtually no obstacles. 

One of the main perks of navigating this coastal boardwalk? Catching a glimpse of the endangered waterbirds that gather here. Local coots and stilts can often be spotted from the boardwalk, as can herons, terns, and pintails. Observe closely and you’re almost certain to see these and other birds hunting for fish. If you’d like to learn more about the local wildlife, check out the interpretive signs posted along the boardwalk. These guides will tell you all you need to know about the area’s most notable species. 

For some, the main benefit of this boardwalk involves easy beach access. While your beach experience here won’t involve classic sunbathing, surfing, or snorkeling, you can step out onto an expansive stretch of sand and feast your eyes on the stunning coastal views. You may be surprised to discover, however, that the marsh views are just as impressive. 

While this walk spans less than a mile, you should set aside at least one full hour to make the most of the experience. Travel the boardwalk too quickly, and you’ll almost certainly miss the magnificent birds that hang out here. Taking a leisurely approach is more pleasant when you visit earlier in the morning or early evening; for some people, the general lack of shade can make this walk less comfortable at midday. Pergolas offer occasional protection from the sun, but a hat and sunglasses are essential for comfortable birdwatching. 

If there’s a downside to visiting this boardwalk, it’s definitely the lack of restrooms. If you’re willing to cross the highway or take a short drive to the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge visitor center, you should find the facilities you need. Otherwise, plan to stop at a restroom elsewhere before you arrive. 

At the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk, the onsite amenities are essentially limited to benches and signs. Still, with a hike this short and casual, that’s all you really need. Treat yourself to a leisurely visit, free of the typical tourist crowds. You’ll quickly discover that the simplest moments on Maui are also the most memorable.

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Round Trip Hours: 1/2-1 Hr

Round Trip Miles: 0.8 Mi

Elevation Gain: 0

Insider Tips:
-Parking is limited at this location, with the small lot accommodating just a few vehicles. This will rarely be an issue, as the boardwalk isn’t typically busy. To increase your odds of landing a spot, visit early in the morning or during the week.
-While binoculars aren’t strictly necessary to see this boardwalk’s iconic birds, you’ll get a far better look at the waterfowl if you have a pair available.